The Hoover Dam bypass bridge is an imposing, towering sight south of the dam.
Designed to cut as much as thirty minutes of travel time between Kingman, Arizona and Las Vegas, this stretch of Interstate 11 is an important roadway in the southwest.
The bridge, which spans 1,900 feet, lies 900 feet above the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. It's a long way down from the bridge, which lies entirely in Nevada. The Arizona border is just east of the bridge.
The public walking path has a parking area on the Nevada side. However, it is not without its hazards and crises.
Unfortunately, the bridge has seen several shutdowns and traffic backups in recent years due to public safety and police activity.
While calls of this nature are uncommon, authorities shut down the bridge any time a potentially suicidal person threatens to jump from the structure.
Most of the public safety calls on the bridge are handled by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Metro has a crisis intervention team to assist in these types of situations.
While it is unclear how many people have jumped off the bridge, the bridge's first suicide was recorded in April 2012, a year and a half after it opened.
It's not been reported how many people have threatened to jump off the bridge.
In more recent years, authorities closed the bridge due to police activity in August 2018 and December 2021.
In March 2022, a 64-year old woman was reported missing and last seen in the Bypass Bridge parking area. As of the time of publication, she had not been found.
Nevada Department of Transportation has considered additional suicide prevention measures for the bridge. Options include a catch net or a higher see-through barrier from the pedestrian walkway, but no plans have been approved.
Structural changes in or around the pedestrian barrier on the bridge could create new safety issues. These could include subjecting the bridge to additional wind load.
Or adding a catch net below the walkway could pose a threat to birds, collect litter, or create a dangerous unauthorized access point.
The Golden Gate Bridge, which is one of the world’s top-ranking suicide destinations, is adding catch nets as a preventative measure across its 1.7-mile span of San Francisco Bay.
In Seattle, Washington State added an 8-foot high suicide-prevention fence in 2011 to help reduce the number of suicides on the Aurora Bridge.
The bridge has been the site of more than two-hundred suicides over its 90+ year history.
Saving lives is the priority over traffic inconveniences. However, the Bypass Bridge will need a better safety solution in the coming years to decrease the potential for suicides.
If you or someone you know is showing warning signs of suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24-hour free access to a trained telephone counselor. Their phone number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).